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Fashion and Retail Management: Dior’s Perspective

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

By Alessandro Rubin

On the 7th of March, the Trinity Hall Fashion & Luxury Goods Society had the pleasure to host a panel of six managers from the UK division of Christian Dior. Anywhere in the world, this name has become a ubiquitous symbol of fashion and elegance. Furthermore, Dior is an international company with an outstanding sale volume of about €49 billion (Forbes, 2018), a result of its ability to predict and create new trends.

The talk was chaired by HR Director Samantha Brunton, who presented the company’s evolution over the decades. This happens at the same time as the exhibition Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which has recently opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, to marks the brand’s historical relevance in the sphere of visual culture.

Some highlights from the Dior exhibition at the V&A

Standing in front of an audience of curious Cambridge students, Ms Brunton outlines the characteristics that make Dior a successful company and the key role of their managerial strategy. At Dior, entrepreneurial independence is fundamental and managers are given freedom to enact their vision over their own divisions, boutiques, and departments. As a consequence, the speaker mentions that flexibility is one of the key aspects in the search for the perfect candidate: as much as fashion retail may sound glamorous in the common imaginary, it is a demanding task and requires the dedication that is expected from the most passionate applicants.

The theme of flexibility and managerial independence is brought up also by Boutique Director Christopher Watney. Referring to his own professional experience, he points out how Dior’s trust in its managers is the truly outstanding feature of the company’s approach to retail. The notion is particularly surprising when considering that Dior is a large company with almost 145 thousand employees. However, it is the approach to managing human resources that has allowed its constant expansion over the past few years.

As Ms Brunton remarks toward the end of the talk, “dreams are possible” and it is indeed Dior’s aim to provide its customers with dreams to be fulfilled. In this regard, she also mentions that the business is growing more and more aware of the individual needs of the clientele, making communication and interpersonal skills more important than ever. Fashion, like any other creative activity, requires an original vision and the ability to transmit it to others. Taste is a shared notion, where the aesthetic experience and its individualistic root are mediated through categories that can be understood and appreciated by larger groups within society. Dior’s power as a brand lies in its ability to catalyse such notions and embody them through their garments, accessories, and beauty products.

(from left) Harrods Concessions Manager, Harrods Shoes Manager Rusul Al Issa, Boutique Director Christopher Watney, and HR Director Samantha Brunton

At the end of the talk, the fashion retail industry emerges as a fast-paced, quickly-transforming sector that requires an entrepreneurial, flexible managerial attitude. Even within large companies, the structure and experience are supported by individual contributions. Indeed, Behemoths such as Dior thrive thanks to the dedicated scouting job of their HR departments. This also reminds us that fashion, like any other creative industry, owes its relevance to a careful understanding of the market and its commercial practices.

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